Returning to Marrakech by Mandy Norris

Returning to Marrakech by Mandy Norris

If you can remember on my initial blog, I told you all how I started to lose weight following a disastrous holiday to Marrakech. My weight totally ruined my experience and I vowed I would return one day, much slimmer and fitter.

In January 2016 I finally returned to Marrakech with Tony, my husband. This time, instead of hiding my size 20 body with big smock dresses and shrugs to hide my flabby arms I wore little sundresses and shorts.  I can’t begin to tell you how amazing that felt. This time, instead of sitting roasting in the shade, we explored the city on foot, covering many miles each day.

On the morning of the marathon I was so excited but also a bag of nerves. I stupidly got a blister on my foot from walking miles the previous day so that had me worried as it was already very painful. We got to the start bright and early. I met up with two friends, Ian and Jonathan, both ultra-runners I had met at previous races. Somehow, we were positioned right at the front of the runners, along with the elites.

The claxon went and off we ran. The streets were lined with people – women, men and children cheering us on. I’d never known anything like it. We were dodging traffic, donkeys and there were mopeds and bicycles everywhere!

We passed little street vendors selling their wares, past the colourful horse drawn carriages, past mosques and orange and lemon trees and through the exotic Menara Gardens. The route took us from the centre of Marrakech to the outskirts of the city, passing many landmarks along the way. Little children joined me, running along and cheering when I passed them little bags of sweets to their delight. It was incredibly hot. We ran along the edge of the desert, palm trees and sand and dust everywhere, it was so hot my water soon ran out.

At the checkpoints the locals would hand us wet sponges and whole oranges – it’s quite an experience trying to peel an orange while you run! The half marathon was taking place at the same time and at about half way I found myself with the half marathon runners.  Somehow, I had missed my turn but I was soon pointed in the right direction. I was one of the slower runners and the streets were buzzing with traffic. Police stopped the traffic just for me and people shouted and cheered as I ran past the pavement cafes! 

The heat was incredible and at times I had to walk small sections. My blisters were killing by now but I just focused on that finishing point, knowing Tony was there waiting for me.

At one stage a police motorbike went past me with a cameraman on the back, waving frantically to me! I thought they were waving and saying hello as there weren’t that many white British women in the race. Here I am, waving and smiling back only to see the winner of the half marathon come running past -turns out they were shouting at me to move over!

I finally finished with a time of 5 hours. Slow by many people’s standards but I was thrilled. I knew had it been cooler I would have been faster but it didn’t really matter – I had finished what I had set out to do, I had run the Marrakech Marathon. 4 years earlier I vowed to return but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would return and complete their marathon! Huge tick off my bucket list! For anyone wanting to experience a ran out of the norm -this has to be it!